January 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States hard, marked the start of the World Health Organization’s International Year of the Nurse and Midwife. A year to celebrate the work of nurses could not have been better timed. As we reflect over the past 3 months, we are proud of how nurses at Orlando Health rose to the challenges of the pandemic to ensure nursing and safety practices met the needs of patients, families, and our teams. This article describes how nurses were leaders in practice and innovation, and describes key skills needed to traverse through uncertain practice situations.
Acting as leaders
As the pandemic events began to unfold, the protection of team members became a top priority. To ensure the safety of our nurses, patients, and visitors we created a new role—COVID-19 Safety Officer (SO). The SO is an RN whose sole responsibility is to provide direction and make decisions on infection prevention and control practices. A SO is in designated units caring for COVID-19 patients and is proactively accountable for preventing breaches in infection control practices to prevent transmission of COVID-19. They work in coordination with infection prevention and unit leadership to safeguard practices.
The COVID-19 pandemic led nurses to revolutionize usual practices in ways never thought possible. For example, the word “innovate” describes the approach nurses took to reduce the number of times they entered a patient’s room. The constant adjustment of medication infusions and conservation of personal protective equipment was top of mind. At one of our hospitals, an intensive care nurse partnered with a clinical pharmacy specialist to devise a method of safe delivery of medications using an infusion pump positioned outside the patient’s room. A small interdisciplinary task force was formed to finalize and standardize the process across the eight-hospital system. Industry blogs, websites, and webinars that identified best practices were developed to allow the infusion system to deliver medications without compromising patient care.
Excelling in nursing practice
Every department throughout our system has been affected by COVID-19. While some nursing departments were busy learning new care practices, other departments were impacted by declining patient volumes. To ensure there would be appropriate staffing to meet the projected patient needs, nurses were given the opportunity to learn care practices in another specialty area. For example, nurses whose practice specialty was emergency medicine were enrolled in post-anesthesia care unit courses. This provided opportunities for clinical nurses to gain new knowledge and excel in nursing practice. Nurses embraced the opportunity to learn additional skills and further develop as clinical nurses. And because nurses were provided education and trained in new skills and tasks proactively, the organization has the flexibility to respond to the workflow disruptions caused by the pandemic.
During a period of uncertainty and new practice challenges, the nurses at Orlando Health have been able to adapt and flex with the constant changes that this pandemic brought. During this International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, our nurses have demonstrated nursing excellence, leadership, and innovative practices that assisted our patients to achieve optimal health. Professional nursing organizations and the WHO continue to highlight and celebrate nurses. We believe that our nurses are worthy of celebrating.
Portions of this article appeared in Life at UCF: Life Connections.
Stacy Jemtrud and Andrea Schuermann are program managers, nursing and special projects, at Orlando Health in Florida.